Tuesday, September 13, 2011

200th Helping of Sports Chowdah- Wakefield Stops Sox Bleeding, Pats Have Huge Night in Miami to Kick Off Season

As disappointing as the first week of September was for Boston fans, the last 24 hours seemed to have offset that nicely.

Ordinarily, a record setting performance by Tom Brady in the regular season opener against an AFC East opponent on Monday Night Football would get top billing, but not after Tuesday night in Fenway.

With the Red Sox winning all of two games for the month of September, Tim Wakefield's Groundhog Day-esque quest for career win #200 seemed like an afterthought. After the 3 game sweep in Florida by the Rays over the weekend to give them new life in the Wild Card race, what Boston needed was somebody to stop the bleeding.

Drafted as a first baseman in 1988 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wakefield developed his knuckleball while with the Salem Buccaneers of the Carolina League. He was called up to Pittsburgh in 1992 and even won Games 3 and 6 of the 1992 NLCS (both starts against Billerica, MA native Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves).

He struggled the following season and was released by Pittsburgh in 1995 during the player's strike. The Red Sox picked him up a few days later and he saw service in Pawtucket and then Boston, filling in for an ailing Roger Clemens.

On July 24, 2011, Time Wakefield recorded career win #199 against the Seattle Mariners. Thanks to an unfortunate series of lackluster starts on his part or the bullpen imploding in close games, the knuckleballer was stuck at #199 for more than 7 weeks. This could've been almost comical if it weren't for the fact that the Red Sox were already swooning in pivotal series against the Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays and Rays- the latter completing a 3-game sweep of Boston on Sunday, September 11.

After an off night Monday, Wakefield got the start against the Blue Jays at Fenway on Tuesday night. In the early going, Wakefield would give up the Red Sox lead thanks to a 3-run homer off the bat of Jays catcher JP Arencibia in the 2nd and a 2-run homer to Jose Bautista in the 3rd.

With the Jays leading 5-4 in the bottom of the 4th, the Red Sox would take the lead on back to bac solo homers from Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Unlike last week's game against the Blue Jays, this would hold up with Wakefield getting out of a two-on and nobody out jam in the 5th and having a 1-2-3 bottom of the 6th as the Red Sox would continue adding to their lead in the 6th, thanks to a leadoff double from Carl Carwford and a 3-run blast from Dustin Pedroia to make it a 10-5 game.

From there, the Red Sox bats would continue to break the game wide open, giving Wakefield plenty of run support for his 6 innings of work. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury made fairly convincing arguments about their inclusion in the AL Most Valuable Player balloting, with Pedroia going 4-5 with 5 RBI and two homers while Ellsbury would go 4-5 with 3 RBI and a solo homer. The Sox would go on to win by an 18-6 final, at long last giving Wakefield career win #200.

This sets a matchup between Ricky Romero (14-10; 3.01 ERA) and John Lackey (12-12; 6.30 ERA) for Wednesday afternoon's game. First pitch will be at 1:35 PM Eastern time at Fenway.

Boston's recent skid has meant that not only have the Yankees started to pull away, but that the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels still have a shot at the Wild Card. While the Yankees had a rough go of it in Southern California dropping two out of three to the Angels, the Bronx Bombers would go on to take the first two games against the Mariners at SafeCo, including closer Mariano Riviera notching career save #600 on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the O's rallied against the Tampa to win by a 4-2 margin. So currently, there's 4 games separating the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East while there Rays are 4 games out from Boston's Wild Card berth. To make things a little more interesting, the Angels are a game and a half behind Tampa for the Wild Card standings and three games behind Texas in the AL West standings.

OTHER SOX NEWS: Just as Kevin Youkilis was coming back form the DL with bursitis and a sports hernia, David Ortiz say out Tuesday's game after experiencing back spasms.

Relief pitcher Bobby Jenks has been diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism on Tuesday and is out for the season.

Josh Beckett pitched a side session on Monday and is expected to start Friday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway. Beckett had missed his last start with a sprained right ankle.

PAWTUCKET RED SOX: After winning a division title to close out their regular season, the PawSox were swept from the International League playoffs by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, dropping the deciding Game 3 by a 3-1 final.

OTHER MLB NEWS: Former Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez was released from a Florida jail after posting $2500 bond on Tuesday. Ramirez faces domestic abuse and battery charges

NFL: What a game! If you thought Thursday night's opener between New Orleans and Green Bay was something, apparently they saved the best offensive performance for last.

On Monday Night, QBs Tom Brady and Chad Henne decided to dwarf the combined total of more than 700 yards between Brees and Rogers.

Miami got the ball rolling with a nice sustained drive for a TD on their opening possession to take the early 7-0 lead. Miami led the NFL in scoring percentage on their opening drive last season, so apparently some of that carries into this season as well.

Brady would respond on the following drive, marching New England down the field, including a 46 yard completion to WR Matthew Slater and capping the drive with a short Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis TD run to tie things up at 7-7. The Pats would take a 14-7 lead into halftime (Gostkowski missed a FG attempt from mid field right before the end of the half).

Miami managed to tie the game up after a Brady lateral attempt was tipped and picked off by Miami DT Jared Odrick at mid field and run back 39 yards, giving the Dolphins 1st and goal from inside the New England 10. Miami managed to tie the game at 14-14 on a short pass from Henne to WR Brian Hartline.

Going with the no-huddle offense, New England got the ball back and Brady found Deion Branch for some quick pickups before pulling ahead for good on a short pass to Wes Welker to make it a 21-14 game.

The Dolphins would start on their own 11 on their next possession, but move the ball down into the New England red zone and settle for a Dan Carpenter FG to cut into the New England lead and make it 21-17.

Brady would find Aaron Hernandez twice on the next possession, once for a 30 yard pickup into Miami's red zone and once for the TD to make it 28-17 (Gostkowski would add to the lead with a chip shot field goal to make it 31-17 early in the 4th).

Late in the 4th, Miami would put together a drive that started on their own 12 yard line and move down the field, only to sputter on 4th and goal at the New England one yard line. What happens next is pretty much the dagger for Miami (not to mention pretty awesome!).

Welker's 4th quarter TD run ties and NFL-long record for 99 yards and iced the game for New England. Tom Brady went 32-48 with 517 yards and 4 TDs (plus the one interception). The Dolphin's Chad Henne went 30-49 with 416 yards and 2 TDs in the losing effort. The Pats win this one by a 38-24 final.

Interestingly, Buffalo won their season opener against Kansas City and despite trailing most of the night, the Jets were able to pull off the win in their home opener against Dallas, making Miami the only Winless team in the division.

The Patriots will next play their home opener will take place on Sunday at 4:15 PM against the San Diego Chargers.

ICE HOCKEY: Alexander Galimov, the last surviving Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey player on board the ill-fated charter flight that crashed last week has died from his injuries. Galimov, a Yaroslavl native, had burns over 80% of his body when he was moved to Moscow for treatment. Flight Crew member Alexander Sizov, who was also airlifted to Moscow, is the sole survivor of the crash.

BOSTON BRUINS: Forward Marc Savard will get his name on the Stanley Cup after all. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli made the announcement at a charity golf tournament on Monday.

Under NHL rules, in order for a player to get their name on the cup a player must play 41 regular games or one game in the Stanley Cup final. However, Savard played in only 25 games due to post-concussion syndrome. However, a 1994 provision in the rule allows the team to petition the NHL to add a the name of an otherwise ineligible player to the Cup. The Bruins petition on behalf of Savard was approved.

A hit from Colorado's Matt Hunwick on a January 22nd game resulted in Savard's 2nd concussion in 10 months.

The Boston Bruins and NY Islanders played a pair of rookie games this week with the Bruins winning Game 1 by an 8-5 final, but getting blown out of the rink by a final of 7-1 on Tuesday night.

Also worth noting that auditions for the Bruins Ice Girls continued into this week- this round was invitation only.

NCAA FOOTBALL: Offensive Coordinator Kevin Rogers is taking a leave of absence form the team due to health reasons, leaving tight-ends coach Dave Brock to fill in on an interim basis, according to BC football head coach Frank Spaziani.

The news comes just days after the Eagles lost starting cornerback CJ Jones, who would be undergoing surgery after being injured on the opening series of Saturday's 30-3 loss to Central Florida.

The winless BC Eagles will next play the Duke Blue Devils (also winless) at Chestnut Hill this Saturday at 12:30 PM ET.

Over the Big East, UConn lost a close one to the Vanderbilt Commodores, with Vandy coming from behind late to win by a 24-21 final. The 1-1 Huskies will next play the undefeated Iowa State Cyclones at E. Hartford. Kickoff is at 8:00 PM ET.

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